FORMER head teacher Richard Wood from Worcester first thought about building a boat so that he could enjoy a creative activity with his two teenage sons.

They all thought it would be fun to row together and Richard was interested in a coastal rowing boat. But as he started researching these types of rowing boats he discovered the cheapest ones would cost in the region of £20,000.

He then came across a boat called the St Ayles Skiff – a Scottish designed boat based on a traditional small sea or river going craft.

The kit for the St Ayles Skiff is only really available to buy for community projects and in Scotland they were particularly used to help develop coastal rowing clubs.

Richard explained: “It is a massively growing culture in Scotland and just starting in England. They are beautiful boats and lovely to row. I think it will take off in England.”

So Richard was drawn to the idea of a community boat building and rowing project and asked Nev Morrell, who manages the Good Soil care farm at Top Barn Farm, near Hallow, Worcester, whether any of the people using the care farm would be interested to joining his project.

Richard set up Zaznak Coastal Rowing organisation as a social enterprise at Top Barn Farm with the aim of offering people who feel marginalised in life through homelessness, substance misuse or for other reasons as chance to take part in a purposeful activity, build relationships and gain a sense of self- worth and belonging.

“It is firstly about community creativity and adventure and sport, health and competition after. It is about traditional skills and enjoying wood and people being together and enjoying being together,” said Richard.

The project was awarded just under £10,000 from the Big Lottery Awards for All scheme and was able to convert a building at the Good Soil site at Top Barn Farm into a workshop before buying the St Ayles Skiff kit from Jordan Boats in Somerset – the only company in the UK supplying these type of boat building kits.

Work on building the boat started last summer and so far about 30 people – some of those using Good Soil care farm and also students from Tudor Grange School in Worcester – have taken part in the project.

“More than 30 people have had their hands dirty on this build so far and the numbers are growing,” said Richard, who previously had no knowledge or experience in carpentry or woodwork.

“I thought it was a good idea and we all got excited about it and are still very excited about it – and more so as it becomes this beautiful boat from a few hunks of wood. Some of the people who work on it come at every opportunity. It is very fulfilling.”

He added that because he had no carpentry skills or knowledge of woodwork, it had been quite a difficult undertaking. “Not being a carpenter, every task was a brand new task and in the beginning it was very daunting.

“It really was a mountain to climb. If I had known how difficult it was I might not have done it, but I am very glad I did.”

He added that the St Ayles Skiff was designed to be built by amateurs and it is made of wood and epoxy – a type of glue, which Richard said is very forgiving and fixes pretty much any mistakes.

Every one of these types of community hand-made boats is unique because of the slight mistakes and imperfections and this adds to the charm.

The first parts of the build are done on the outside and the boat has to be upside down. Once they are complete the boat has to be turned the right way up – this is called the turning of the boat and marks a particular stage of the process. It is at this point the boat is issued with its registration number.

Zaznak’s boat, called Zandenise in memory of the late Denise Inge – wife of the Bishop of Worcester John Inge who died of cancer in 2014, has recently been through the turning process and is now undergoing the next stage of the building process.

“I think for the kids from Tudor Grange to see something of this scale that they have created, there is such a major sense of achievement. The sense of purpose and achievement it brings to them and a ‘can do’ mentality. They think ‘I can do things I did not realise I can do’.”

Once the boat is finished it will be given to Zaznak’s Rowing Club, which Richard believes is England’s most inland coastal rowing club. The club can us it and do trials on the lake at Top Barn Farm and also practise on the River Severn before taking it to sea.

Britain has 19,000 miles of coastline and there are a lot of coastal rowing clubs the members of Zaznak can join up with. “Our group is really about adventure, recreation and also competition.

“We have the lake here for testing to make sure it does not sink or it will be Zaznak’s submarines, jokes Richard.

“The community rowing club is going to be an important next step. The first priority is going to be to offer the chance to use it to the people who have worked on it. If we have got demand for them we will keep building them and we hope that will bring more funding.

Richard’s sons have taken part in the build and enjoyed it, he added. “The project has been 10 times as beautiful as it was in its initial conception and it has benefitted all these people.”

When Zandenise is finished a second St Ayles Skiff will be built at Zaznak Coastal Rowing with the rest of the Big Lottery funds.